Click here for the series intro and last week’s reports.
Chris Baker, SS, Low-A Tri-City
Taken out of the University of Washington in the 17th round of this year’s draft, Chris Baker is currently plying his trade in the Northwest League with the Tri-City Dust Devils. Having played all over the infield at Washington (competently, according to multiple reports), he’s played shortstop exclusively during his month and a half as a professional. Currently at the All-Star break, Baker’s slash line is .300/.397/.393 in 179 PA, with a 129 wRC+. That’s good enough for him to be selected for the Northwest League All-Star team.
Baker’s an interesting player, as I found out when I had the opportunity to watch the Dust Devils play a series in person a couple of weeks back. Offensively, he already looks comfortable at this level. The ball looks solid off of his bat, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a bit more power develop before he’s through. Defensively, I thought he looked average/above-average, with a pretty strong arm. In each game of the series, there were some mental lapses on the bases and in the field. John Conniff at MadFriars saw Tri-City’s subsequent series and made no notes of such issues. Given this and reports I’ve read out of college, I’d venture to guess this isn’t a long-term issue worth being too concerned about.
While the draft position and rankings justifiably aren’t particularly sexy, this is a solid player who could end up being an interesting, “under-the-radar” type guy in the system. (Vocal Minority David)
Michael Kelly, RHP, Double-A San Antonio
For all the (deserved) praise the Padres have received this year for the staggering number of talented players they’ve acquired, they’re still absolute trash in one critical area: MLB-ready starting pitching.
We’re seeing it right now as the Padres are forced to give the Christian Friedrichs and Edwin Jacksons of the world rotation spots. Hell, they even reacquired Colin Rea! It’s really bad right now. Sure, you have Anderson Espinoza, Cal Quantrill, Eric Lauer, and Adrian Morejon to dream on, and another half dozen or so arms that could pitch in the middle of a rotation someday.
Someday isn’t next year, though. When you talk about realistic options for next year, there are only a handful of legit arms who could contribute, one of them being Michael Kelly. I could list Kelly’s stats and how he’s pitched at three different levels this year and is only 23, but that wouldn’t be the best part. What is? He’s a JED HOYER DRAFT PICK MOTHERFUCKER.
Jed Hoyer, whose draft record should have its own category on PornHub, drafted Kelly in Supplemental round of the 2011 draft (48th overall) out of Boca Raton, Fl. Kelly had rough start to his pro career. He was either injured (he had a shoulder injury that reduced his signing bonus when he was drafted) or bad, being moved from the rotation to the bullpen, and vice versa.
Finally, last year, while pitching at Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore, he found his footing, starting a career-high 18 games (96.2 IP). He’s managed to stay healthy this year too, as he’s skyrocketed through the system all the way to Triple-A El Paso after starting the year at Lake Elsinore. According to great people at MadFriars, Kelly has a long, lean frame (6’5”) that allows him reach mid-90s with the fastball.
Talent, pedigree, JED HOYER DRAFT PICK, and performance. Considering the garbage the Padres are currently running out there, plus the dearth of options that will be available in free agency in the offseason, Kelly should be a serious candidate for the rotation next year. (Oscar)
Dinelson Lamet, RHP, Double-A San Antonio
The skinny: Dinelson Lamet is a RHP out of the Dominican Republic, standing 6’4” at 190 lbs., while—at least when I saw him—sitting 93-94 MPH, and touching 96. His slider is a wipeout pitch, and he had just recently added a changeup.
*Dinelson Lamet might be a reliever*
I see the stats, I see the fastball and slider, and this was still all I could conclude. Mind you, this isn’t a fair evaluation—I’ve only seen Lamet pitch twice, and both times were in Lake Elsinore—but it’s still the first thing that comes to mind.
*Dinelson Lamet might be a reliever*
This isn’t to say I’m oblivious to his stats—both in Lake Elsinore and, now, San Antonio—or the glowing reports, including this report from Baseball America.
Lamet didn’t perform poorly when I saw him. A bit erratic with his location, perhaps, but his fastball had decent arm-side run and he was able to locate to both sides of the plate while keeping the ball down in the zone for most of his start.
When he was able to get ahead in the count, he was able to wipe out hitters with his slider. Plus, he’s athletic with good reach and a (seemingly) athletic build.
*Dinelson Lamet might a reliever*
But it’s that change-up—that elusive third pitch—that he lacked feel, command, and a consistent release with that had me doubting the end results.
Granted, I thought the same thing after a half-dozen starts of Zach Eflin—and look where he is now. Lamet just turned 24, and while he has shown a slight uptick in his BB/9 and ERA since his promotion to San Antonio, his strikeouts have increased dramatically and the overall results have remained about the same.
All this against better competition. It’s hard to tell if the change-up will develop into a solid third offering, and I’ll leave that determination to the professional evaluators. As of now, all I know that he has good life on both of his developed pitches and has performed fairly well at all levels. If you consider that he’s only recently added the change-up to his repertoire and what he’s done while developing that new pitch, his overall performance is justifiably turning heads. Sure, he’s a tad erratic, but he’s shown good feel and has arguably improved against better competition.
*Dinelson Lamet might…be a starter*
Despite my first-hand observations, if you squint and dream hard enough, he’s shown enough to believe a future rotation spot isn’t too far-fetched. (Woe, Doctor)
Manuel Margot, CF, Triple-A El Paso
My first exposure to Margot came this past March, in Peoria. Spring training games had just started, and he was seeing action on the big-league side. Late in a contest someone hit a line drive into the right field corner. Hunter Renfroe retrieved the ball and fired it toward third base.
As Renfroe’s throw skipped past everyone, the batter took a wide turn around second base. One of the guys backing up the play grabbed the ball and threw behind the runner, who barely made it back safely. I lamented that the second baseman hadn’t gotten to the bag sooner.
Then I noticed there were only two men in the outfield. That wasn’t the second baseman who almost made the play, that was the center fielder, wearing no. 70. That was Margot, who had run in from his position to cover the vacated bag.
He has pedigree, being ranked 56th, 45th, and 14th best prospect in baseball before the season by Baseball America, MLB.com (video), and Baseball Prospectus, respectively. Those rankings have shifted to 39th, 36th, and 16th at midseason. And while rankings guarantee nothing, they at least give us some sense of what people in the industry who evaluate talent for a living think of him.
Margot also has tools, most notably speed (MLB.com gives him a 65 on the 20-80 scouting scale, while Baseball Prospectus gives him a 70) and defense (both give him a 60, and he made a nice grab in the Futures Game). Although lacking in power (MLB.com gives him a 45), he has strong bat-to-ball skills and no glaring weaknesses. El Paso is a good offensive environment (his OPS is 850 at home, 709 on the road), but it’s worth noting that he’s very young for the PCL. In fact, he hasn’t faced a pitcher who is younger than him all season.
Oh, and that anecdote at the top? I watched Margot a lot during spring training, and what impressed me more than his tools was his situational awareness. He always knew where he was supposed to be and what he was supposed to be doing. That may not sound like a big deal, and we’re getting into some fuzzy areas here, but I believe his instincts will allow him to play above his tools.
Although Margot’s upside isn’t massive, his floor is high and he’s close to ready. They’re different types of players, but in terms of overall production, think Steve Finley 1995, Mark Kotsay 2001-2003 with more speed, or Cameron Maybin 2011-2012 with a better bat. Someone like that at the top of the order and in the middle of the diamond can help a team win championships… or at least break .500. (Geoff Young)
Adrian Morejon, LHP, Padres’ Dominican Facility
Adrian Morejon is a projectable left-handed starter the Padres signed during their international crazy-thon this past July. He cost the Padres $22 million, though only half that amount actually goes to Morejon due to MLB’s penalties, a rant which will have to be saved for another time.
The 17-year-old Morejon is listed at 6’1’’, though the Padres believe he could add another inch or two before he matures. He’s known for a repeatable delivery with easy velocity that sits in the low nineties but touches 95mph with his fastball. He also receives praise for his curveball, traditional change-up, and a bonus knuckle-change with late diving action.
Baseball America’s Ben Badler and The Union-Tribune’s Dennis Lin report that after Morejon finishes the summer in the Padres’ Dominican facility, he’ll head to Arizona instructional league, followed by a potential 2017 season in low or high-A. That a would-be 18 year old is considered to start next year in A ball says a lot about his maturity and top of the rotation potential–American players his age would only be in their senior year of high school. (Sac Bunt Chris)
Chris Paddack, RHP, Single-A Fort Wayne
[KEVIN crawls over to the fence and stands up. He hears a sound and frightened of it, he jumps over the fence, where WINNIE‘s sitting]
KEVIN: Did you see that? It’s a horse! God, it practically scared me to death. Can you believe that?
[KEVIN looks at WINNIE, who’s crying now.]
WINNIE: I don’t want it to end.
[KEVIN and WINNIE start kissing each other tenderly.]
One of the great disappointing lessons of childhood is that good things don’t last forever. Grandparents pass away and friends lose touch and girlfriends move to Paris. Paddack had a good thing going, ya know, monopolizing the five inning, no run minor-league start:
It’s hard not to wonder just how good Paddack could be, with that stretch of pitching dominance neatly encapsulated into the rectangle above. Paddack’s worst start, over a 10-game stretch, was a 4 1/3 inning, 4 hit, 2 run, no walk, 4 strikeout performance back in early June. He had at least eight strikeouts six times over that stretch, and he never surpassed five innings and 76 pitches. He had one game where he pitched five innings and struck out eight on 54 pitches. Oh yeah, and since that June 6 dud: 29 innings, 1 run, 11 hits, 4 walks, 51 strikeouts. Sheesh.
But it had to end. Ultimately Paddack was undone by the same thing that got him where he is—his right arm, specifically his right elbow, stopped working correctly, and so he’ll likely undergo season-ending Tommy John. Paddack will work quietly, in the baseball shadows, to try to come back sometime late next year (or, more likely, early 2018) picking up where he left off. If all goes well, he’ll resume his pitching tour de force, a year or two older. If it doesn’t go well—if the TJ surgery doesn’t “take” or if the stuff isn’t the same—you might not hear much from Paddack again.
The baseball gods—or, more accurately, the unnatural act of the overhand throwing motion—just wouldn’t let Paddack persist, not at this level. Hopefully, for his sake, he’ll come back more or less the same guy. (Sac Bunt Dustin)
Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, Arizona Rookie League
Tatis Jr. is so young and so inexperienced that you have to dig to find anything written about him on the internet . . . I mean, dig, dark web and all. In fact, Tatis Jr.’s Baseball Prospectus page, which usually includes, amongst the usual statistics and projections, a number of links to articles and chat responses about the player, is almost completely empty:
Despite the bloodlines, Tatis Jr., signed by the White Sox last year, wasn’t a particularly high profile international prospect out of the Dominican Republic, and he didn’t debut in professional baseball until this season, skipping any real in-game performance with Chicago. Good news: he’s doing pretty well. Bad news: the stats hardly matter.
The further you go down on the minor-league ladder, the less you trust the stats and the more you trust various scouting observations and anecdotes. At the rookie league level, you definitely want to defer to your favorite online prospect hound—the guy or gal who goes out and watches games or, at least, talks to people who do that—but, as long as you don’t get too swept up in them, looking at the statistical performance can’t hurt. Here’s what Tatis Jr. has done in 134 plate appearances:
.262/.295/.389, 4.5 BB%, 22.4 K%
There are some concerns there, but he’s shown doubles-power and he’s swiped seven bases in nine attempts, and it’s good to see him out there playing, and playing reasonably well. (Just whispering this, but he does have nine errors in 29 games, playing mostly short but also some second and third, which is probably both a product of low-level baseball and some understandable ring rust.) He’s a long ways off, which just means he’s likely to appear on this feature a bunch more times, for better or worse. (Sac Bunt Dustin)
Nick Torres, OF, Triple-A El Paso
Last week I covered Franchy Cordero, the Padres outfield prospect recently promoted to San Antonio. Cordero should see more playing time with the Missions as Nick Torres was promoted to El Paso. Torres is going to fill Jabari Blash’s spot as Jabari is now in #Blashtoff mode for the Padres.
Drafted in 2014 in the fourth round out of Cal Poly SLO, the 6’1”, 220-pound corner outfielder is the number 24 ranked prospect in the Padres system according to MLB Pipeline. Speaking of MLB Pipeline, their write up of Torres shows a scouting grade of: Hit: 50 | Power: 45 | Run: 40 | Arm: 50 | Field: 50 | Overall: 45
Kiley McDaniel, formerly of Fangraphs, had this to say about Nick back in an organization write-up in December of 2014: “LF Nick Torres 2014 4th rounder from Cal Poly doesn’t have huge tools but they’re all around average and he looks like a potential platoon guy for now.” Torres sure isn’t hitting like a fourth outfielder. He was named a starter in the 2016 Texas League All-Star game. He also went 1-2 with a double.
This year his slash line is: .285/.325/.421/.745. The home runs (7) have not come, but he has 29 doubles so far this year. Most reports project he can move beyond his gap-to-gap power and start driving the ball out of the park. His swing is a bit long and he has an uppercut in it as well. Hopefully he does start to translate that swing to in-game power. Texas is a tough league to find a power stroke, so if he does start hitting long dongs it should mean the power is legitimate.
Torres seems like a good guy and is very humble in interviews. He’s a southern California kid so it would be nice to see him break out and make the Padres roster in a couple of years. He has work to do, as like Cordero, who took his place in San Antonio, he needs to cut down on his swing and miss tendency. It is nice to see the Padres have the kind of depth where their prospects in the mid-20 range have mid-level tools, with a real possibility to push their ceiling up higher. Keep pushing, Nick. You could be in the next set. (Billy Lybarger)